FIA WEC

FIAWEC: Audi Sport Survives To Win At Silverstone

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In perhaps the most competitive race in the history of the FIA World Endurance Championship, Audi Sport Team Joest’s trio of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler, and Benoit Treluyer overcame a late stop and go penalty to hold off a fast closing Porsche Team squad to claim the season opening Six Hours of Silverstone on Sunday afternoon. After dominating sports car racing for over a decade, the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro runners claimed only one victory in 2014, having been for the most part outclassed by both Porsche and Toyota. However, after a major reworking of their challenger during the off season, the Dr. Wolfgang Ulrich-led squad claimed the win, but not necessarily in the uncontested fashion in which fans have been accustomed to.

The wildest action of the race for overall honors came during the final hour as Porsche’s Neel Jani and Audi’s Fassler swapped the lead multiple times. The R18 Quattro was clearly faster in the tighter sections of the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit, while the Porsche 919 Hybrid was much quicker on the longer straightaways. The race however, looked to be decided with 50 mimutes to go, when Porsche called Jani in for his final pit stop, in which fuel and two tires were taken. Audi would also have to pit one final time, but being able to pit closer to the finish, Audi would likely only need a splash of fuel to reach the checkered flag, therefore saving enough time to secure the win.

Then the FIA officials stepped in. Earlier in the race, Audi star driver Andre Lotterer was adjudged to have illegally overtaken the Porsche and slower GTE-Pro traffic by going off the circuit at the final corner, Club. A stop and go penalty was assessed, which Fassler served with 10 minutes to go. The lead was cut into, but pushing hard to close up the gap to the Audi, Jani had burned off his fresh rubber and was unable to bridge the gap at the finish, settling for runner-up honors just four seconds behind the winner. Toyota Motorsports, despite lacking pace with their pair of TS040 Hybrids, would rebound to finish third and fourth on Sunday.

For the second Audi and Porsche entries in the LMP1 field however, the day would be one to forget. The sister R18 Quattro to the race winner made two trips to the garage for mechanical problems and finished fifth. The second Porsche, started by Mark Webber, paced the field early in the first hour, but the machine would suffer a drive train failure, forcing the German squad to retire the car at that point.

While action was non-stop in LMP1, it was business as usual for G-Drive Racing in LMP2 as they cruised to a 1-2 finish with their Ligier JS P2-Nissans with the driving lineup of Sam Bird, Roman Rusinov, and Julien Canal taking the top step of the final podium. The American-based Extreme Speed Motorsports team was the feel good story of the race in the smaller prototype division, claiming a third place finish on the same day their lead driver Ryan Dalziel celebrated his 33rd birthday. The British driver is no stranger to success in the FIA WEC, having led Starworks Motorsport to the LMP2 class title in 2012. The team is pushing on with their program despite having given up on the Honda ARX-04b coupe after competing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. ESM used last year’s challenger, a Honda ARX-03b this weekend at Silverstone and will likely run the same car again next month for the FIA WEC’s second round in Belgium. The team is hoping to acquire a pair of Ligier JS P2 coupes in time for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, which would put them on close to equal footing with G-Drive Racing.

The expected domination by Aston Martin Racing in the GT Endurance divisions Sunday was limited as Ferrari’s runners AF Corse, with Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni at the wheel claimed the victory Sunday in GTE-Pro. Bruni earned the triumph despite a strong challenge from Porsche Team Manthey’s Michael Christensen and AF Corse teammate James Calado in the final 90 minutes, who would finish second and third. AMR, who claimed the top three positions on the grid in GTE-Pro in Saturday qualifying, fell back in the opening hour and never threatened in the upper division settling for positions four through six.

Although a GTE-Pro win was not in the cards Sunday, Aston Martin managed to go nearly wire-to-wire in the lower GTE-Amateur division as Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda, and Pedro Lamy rolled to the victory beating AF Corse’s amateur Ferrari by 13 seconds at the flag.

The next stop for the FIA World Endurance Championship will resume action on Sunday, May 2 at the challenging Spa-Francochamps Circuit in Belgium.

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About Matt Embury

Matt Embury is the Senior SportsCar Writer at Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@MattEmbury) for the latest sports car news and opinions. A native of Mishawaka, Indiana, he has been following sports car racing for nearly 20 years.

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